Over the past few weeks, The Win Column has ranked the Calgary Flames’ best prospects in advance of the 2022 NHL Draft. Next up in our prospect rankings is the fourth ranked prospect: Adam Ruzicka.
With the Calgary Flames holding the 109th overall pick inside the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Draft, general manager Brad Treliving selected centre Adam Ruzicka from the OHL’s Sarnia Sting. It should also be of note that the now concluded 2021–22 season was Ruzicka’s third calendar season of professional hockey under his belt.
Ruzicka is Slovak-born hailing out of Bratislava, Slovakia, registered at 6’4” and 220lbs.
Ruzicka’s strengths and weaknesses
Ruzicka is a left-shot centre who’s known for his characteristic power forward frame. He possesses excellent puck control ability and all round puck skill. He has a certain mastery towards controlling the puck on his stick and finding his teammates through his great passing ability. One thing that was noted in his scouting report at the time of his draft was that he was known to be particularly good at making unsuspecting backhand passes.
Ruzicka’s frame also allows him to be a real presence inside the face-off dot, and he puts his height and hockey IQ to great use when it comes to his overall puck possession and protection game. His finishing ability is another one of his strengths that cannot be overlooked. All in all, the gifts he owns have translated well into creating scoring chances, not just for himself but also for his teammates.
However, he could potentially improve upon his overall skating ability, his production, consistency, and using his frame for the more physical side of the game. An improvement in these areas would make Ruzicka the complete package and a bona fide mainstay NHL-calibre player, which he is already projected to be next season.
Ruzicka’s pro on-ice results
|2021-22||Calgary Flames |
In Ruzicka’s first two seasons with the Heat, he showed his capability and potential as an everyday top-line option in the pro ranks. In the 2019–20 season—his first career professional season—he tallied 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points in 54 games played. The following season, he tallied 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points in 26 fewer games played.
Looking back over the course of the 2020–21 season, it should be of note that Ruzicka could have been a season-long option to ride the taxi squad but for his own development and for the best interest of the organization, it is a good thing he was not. Instead, he got to play actual professional hockey games with the Heat.
Ruzicka made his NHL debut on May 16, 2021 and by the end of the calendar 2020–21 season, Ruzicka had finished the year with three games of NHL experience under his belt, along with achieving the feat of putting up his first career NHL point in that short span.
This past season, Ruzicka got off to an incredibly hot start with 20 points through his first 16 games with the Heat. By November, he had earned himself an extensive call-up where he was practically treated like a full-time NHLer until early March. When he drew in with the Flames, head coach Darryl Sutter slotted him on the fourth line between veterans Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis, for the majority of the time he was up.
It should also be important to note that he was penciled in to the third line with Andrew Mangiapane and Tyler Toffoli, forming a very effective and dynamic line that was deployed in brief stints this past season. All in all, he finished the year tallying five goals and five assists for 10 points through 28 games played. Prorated over a full season, this would have been good enough for 29 points.
Ruzicka has progressed significantly since his rookie season. Not only did he turn into one of the AHL’s better players, but he looked really solid when given the opportunity to dress with the main club this season. He rarely looked out of place over the course of his time in the NHL this season and it will be exciting to see how he builds on this progress heading into next year.
What’s next for Ruzicka?
Ruzicka is set to become a restricted free agent (RFA) on July 13 and it seems likely that he will be receiving a new deal with the Flames. His cap hit this past season was just over $800K, which is likely where his next contract will sit. The Ruzicka camp will be pushing for a one-way contract, but there is a good chance he signs a two-way deal with his limited NHL experience. I’d expect his new deal to give him a raise at the AHL level though, over the $70K entry-level deal threshold in his previous contract.
Sutter described Ruzicka as a guy who’s got the skill, the size, and the hockey IQ to achieve success at the NHL level, he just needs to learn how to put it all together to position himself as a mainstay NHLer. The feedback Ruzicka has likely gained this season from both the Flames coaching staff and upper management could’ve only done wonders for his development heading into next season.
With the Flames’ cap gymnastic-based offseason crunch now on the horizon, Ruzicka should be a shoo-in for being an NHL regular heading into next season, as long as he can continue taking those steps over the course of the summer. He may never have to return for time down in the AHL again.